Details of Disappearance Alma and her older sister, Laura Huff, spent several years in foster care prior to 1980. The two girls were placed in care after they ran away from home to escape sexual abuse. A third sister had moved out of the household by then.
Alma's father was convicted of sexually abusing Alma and Huff and was sentenced to prison. He was still incarcerated when Alma disappeared. The two sisters were very close, although they often had to stay in separate foster homes.
Shortly before Alma went missing, the sisters were reunited and went to live with their grandmother in Applegate, California. Alma was last seen on January 1, 1980. Her 25-year-old boyfriend, Scott Petschek, picked her up from her grandmother's residence that evening.
According to Petschek, he and Alma spent some time at his grandmother's home, then Alma asked him to drive her to her aunt's home in Rio Linda, California. He dropped her off at her requested destination, then went to his job at McClellan Air Force Base. After work, when he went back to Rio Linda to pick up Alma, she was gone.
Petschek informed authorities that he did not consider her disappearance unusual, since Alma had a reputation as an occasional runaway and hitchhiker. Her family told investigators that she did not have an aunt who lived in Rio Linda. She may have traveled with a male companion after her initial disappearance.
Due to her history as a runaway, police believed Alma had left of her own accord in 1980. From the beginning, Huff believed this was not the case; she stated the two of them had always run away together and Alma wouldn't have left without her. Huff claims when she asked Petschek what happened, he told her she would never find Alma.
The case was reopened in 1991, after Alma's father's release from prison, when he went to the police and asked if they had located his daughter. Authorities re-interviewed Petschek and searched the well behind his grandmother's home, but found nothing of interest.
Interestingly, sometime after 1980, Petschek was convicted of child molestation, and he is now registered as a sex offender. He has never been charged in Alma's case, however, and maintains his innocence in her disappearance.
Little information is available as to Alma's fate. Her grandparents and father have died, but her mother and two sisters are still alive. Her case remains unsolved and some agencies still classify it as a runaway.
- Placer County Sheriff's Department
Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 24, 2017; age-progression updated.